On This Day in Red Sox History: Ted Williams Raises Batting Average Over .400 for First Time in 1941

On this day in 1941, Red Sox legend Ted Williams went 4-for-5 at the plate with one double and two RBI as part of a 10-3 victory for Boston over the Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

Entering that Sunday, Williams owned a .383/.473/.606 slash line through his first 28 contests of the 1941 campaign. The four-hit showing raised his batting average on the season to a robust .404. It would never fall below the .393 mark again for the remainder of the year.

Yes, when all was said and done in 1941 and the Sox finished with the second-best record in the American League, The Kid owned the best batting average in all of baseball at .406, securing his first of six career batting titles.

Over the course of 143 games played that year, Williams led the junior circuit in hitting (.406), on-base percentage (.533), slugging (.735), home runs (37), runs scored (135), and wRC+ (221). He finished just a handful of RBI short of winning the Triple Crown, but the fact that Williams was statistically the best player in the AL did not result in an uptick in MVP votes.

Instead, the Yankees’ Joe DiMaggio was named the American’s League Most Valuable Player, in part because of a mid-season hitting streak that spanned 56 games, and he beat out Williams by a fairly wide margin.

That may have been the case because at the time, hitting for a high average was not exactly a rarity in baseball.

By hitting .406 in 1941, Williams became the ninth player since 1871 to surpass the .400 plateau in a single season. Since that time, as you may already be aware, no player has batted .400 or better over the course of a full season. In other words, The Splendid Splinter is the last major-league hitter to bat over .400.

“I hope somebody hits .400 soon,” Williams once said sometime after accomplishing the feat. “Then people can start pestering that guy with questions about the last guy to hit .400.”

It hasn’t happened yet, and it probably won’t happen anytime soon, either. Since the turn of the century, the closest any player has gotten to hitting .400 was Nomar Garciaparra, who batted .372 in 2000, and Ichiro Suzuki, who also batted .372 in 2004.

 

On This Day in Red Sox History: Ted Williams Enlists in U.S. Navy

On this day in in 1942, Red Sox legend Ted Williams enlisted in the United States Navy a little more than five months after Pearl Harbor had been attacked by Japanese forces and the U.S. entered World War II as a result.

At the time of his joining the Navy reserves voluntarily, Williams was 31 games into what would turn out to be a superb 1942 campaign.

The Kid was coming off a 3-for-5 effort in Cleveland the day before his enlistment, raising his slash line on the year to a robust .319/.458/.611 to go along with nine home runs and 37 RBI.

Despite being exempt from the draft due to his mother’s dependence on him, Williams faced criticism from fans and media alike as his courage was put into question.

Still, even though he didn’t have to, Williams, who was 23 at the time, enlisted in the Navy on May 22nd and was sworn in that same day.

From there, the Splendid Splinter went on to finish second in 1942 American League MVP voting behind Yankees second baseman Joe Gordon despite winning the Triple Crown and leading the junior circuit in several offensive categories.

The Red Sox finished second in the American League that year, and in November, Williams was called into active duty.

For the next three years, in what would have been his age-24, 25, and 26 seasons, Williams never saw any live combat, but he did spend his time training, eventually earning his wings and Marine Corps commission in 1944 and attending flight school in Florida for a few years before being discharged in January 1946.

Williams re-joined the Sox that spring and picked up right where he left off in terms of offensive production. He was however recalled to military service later on in 1952, serving as a Marine Corps captain and member of the first Marine Air Wing during the Korean War.

For more on Williams, click here, here, and here.